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Order on inspection of disputed EFL may be revoked

It was dubbed as an attempt to give land back to owners after clearing Ecologically Fragile Land tag

An earlier order of the State government to accord sanction for conducting a joint inspection in 219.5 acres of disputed land at Kavilumpara village under Vadakara taluk, which was notified as Ecologically Fragile Land (EFL) several years ago, is likely to be revoked following a controversy.

A high-level meeting chaired by Forest Minister K. Raju was held in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday to review the move and discuss the complaints against the order, which was issued on the basis of a representation submitted by Abhirami Plantations and Resorts Private Ltd.

The main allegation against the order from various corners was that it was an attempt to give back the disputed land to the owners after clearing the EFL tag with the illegal formation of a joint inspection team. Those who opposed it had also quoted the Accounts General’s (AG) report that any dispute related to EFL land could be challenged only at the Kerala High Court or the Supreme Court.

A senior Forest Department officer said the meeting was held to discuss the experts’ opinion on the order and the legal measures to be followed by the landowners themselves to settle it. “The final decision was to leave it to the consideration of the court without conducting any joint inspection,” he told The Hindu.

The controversial order issued by the Forest Department on November 3, 2020 had recommended the formation of a five-member committee. The recommendation was to include a competent officer from the Forest Department, an expert in scientific sampling from the Kerala Forest Research Institute, another expert from the Coffee Board, a scientist from the Department of Agriculture, and finally a representative from Abhirami Plantation that owned the property.

The Additional Chief Conservator of Forest, who is also the Custodian of Ecologically Fragile Land had been entrusted with the task of coordinating the inspection. and to submit the report to the government. However, the plan to include a representative of the plantation company as the fifth member in the team had triggered protests.

Source: thehindu.com

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